Americano Restaurant & Bar at Hotel Vitale in San Francisco has always been one of my favorites. With its closeness to the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, its state-of-the-art 800-degree pizza oven, and its creative focus on local seasonal produce – the Italian-American eatery, despite being a “hotel restaurant” with all the prejudice inherently attached to the term, has never disappointed.
A few weeks ago, Hotel Vitale, a Joie de Vivre property, and San Francisco’s only luxury waterfront boutique hotel, announced the appointment of Josua Perez, formerly chef de cuisine, who’s been with the hotel for seven years, as Executive Chef of Americano. In his new role, Perez oversees the kitchen at Americano Restaurant & Bar and is responsible for in-room dining, and catering to meetings and special events.
“We are thrilled to build upon Chef Perez’s impressive tenure at Hotel Vitale and Americano,” said Area Managing Director Antoine Berberi. “This is a natural development given that Chef has played an increasingly significant role in everything from menu development to event execution over the past few years. We are excited for him to expand his influence over Hotel Vitale’s entire culinary program.”
A San Francisco native, Perez previously worked in several well-known city restaurants, including Absinthe, Firefly, and Zuni Café, where he was tutored by the celebrity Chef Judy Rodgers.At the Americano, Chef Perez pursues a goal of delivering a sophisticated, yet entertaining experience in both the bar and dining room with the new menu format focusing on small plates of seasonal Italian cuisine. He likes to emphasize the shift in focus in the type of dining experience Americano offers now – not only locally sourced, seasonal, and rustic, but also consistent throughout, with a great selection of bites at the bar and a fun, vibrant atmosphere at the dining room.
The recently tailored menu reflects this change in focus. There is a lot more emphasis on smaller plates that can be shared so that each diner can explore various dishes. Smaller items are also popular for the informal patio dining. At the same time, traditional salads, appetizers and several full size entrees are kept on the list.
For an introductory luncheon today, Chef Perez prepared several remarkably seasonal dishes. He commented on the 1st course, Heirloom tomato and watermelon salad, feta, arugula, poppy seed vinaigrette. “This is a very simple salad that relies heavily on the pristine quality of its components. We waited until the tomatoes reached their best potential of the season and we will be using as many varieties as we can including cherry tomatoes such as sungolds and sweet 100's. The watermelon is cut into large cubes and the feta is cut into thick shards. These different shapes and textures create a unique mouthfeel in every bite. Because of the delicate nature of all of these ingredients the poppy seed vinaigrette is simply drizzled on top of the salad to maintain its integrity. The vinaigrette is made with Banyuls vinegar, shallot, olive oil and toasted poppy seeds. The poppy seeds add a delicate yet nuanced flavor to the salad. Banyuls comes from the south of France and has a sweet flavor similar to sherry but with a little brighter acidity. The salad is garnished with a few leaves of arugula to provide a bitter counterpoint to the sweetness of the tomatoes and watermelon. This salad replaces the avocado salad at both lunch and dinner. The lunch salad is slightly different in that it has cucumbers and croutons instead of watermelon. We did this to accommodate all the requests we have to add chicken or shrimp to our seasonal salad and that set is a little better suited to those proteins.”
The 2nd course, Skirt steak, Early Girl tomatoes, dandelion greens, herb salmoriglio seemed a little overwhelmed with salt, but had a nice array of fresh flavors from the greens and tiny tomatoes.
Between the courses, Pan roasted Padrone peppers, Fried green tomatoes with smoked onion coriander aioli, and Stonefruit panzanella were offered, with the latter being an absolute winner due to perfectly grilled peach and nectarine slices, sprinkled with olive oil and balsamic.
The 3rd course was a crowd pleaser – Olive oil cake, peaches, honey mascarpone. I would definitely return to Americano time and again, if only for this simple yet outstandingly satisfying dessert! Americano at Hotel Vitale is located at 8 Mission Street at the corner of Embarcadero in San Francisco. For more information, visit www.AmericanoRestaurant.com. For more information about Hotel Vitale, visit www.HotelVitale.com and www.jdvhotels.com.
Images of Chef Perez, Hotel Vitale exterior, and Americano interior: courtesy Hotel Vitale.